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My pub was Hurricane's safe haven -- pal's tribute to tragic snooker star

SNOOKER legend Alex Higgins thought of a Dublin pub as his safe haven, a friend has revealed today.

Dublin publican Hugh Hourican formed a firm friendship with snooker legend Alex Higgins and told how the sporting hero would spend hours drinking tea and chatting with fans in The Boar's Head on Capel Street.

Higgins, who will be buried in his native Belfast on Monday, was a regular in The Boar's Head when he visited Dublin.

He last visited the pub about six weeks ago -- and one of Hugh's proudest possessions is an autographed photograph Alex gave him of him and fellow snooker great Jimmy White.





Gambler

"I first met him in 1994 when I was introduced by Louis Copeland. Louis was a great pal who was very good to him," Hugh said.

"Alex was a character, had a great personality and was a very bright man. He would come in and sit in the window with a glass of Guinness and a bowl of soup.

"In all that time I have never known him to be drunk. It was always a glass of Guinness, never a pint. He was a gambler, not a drinker," he said.

Regulars at the pub all knew him and he knew a lot of them by name. Even young students from Bolton Street college recognised him and asked to meet him.

In the pub, the customers never imposed on him and Hugh said Alex regarded it as a safe haven when he came down to Dublin.

"He just sat in the window with a bowl of soup and his bookies slip. He was in heaven," Hugh added.

Now the publican hopes to be among the thousands of mourners at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on Monday to say goodbye to his old friend.

The publican revealed how Higgins would have been tempted to swap his snooker career for golf in another life.

"He told me that if he wasn't a professional snooker player he would have been a professional golfer," Hugh said. "He told me he loved golf as much as snooker."

Once, in 1998, he asked Hugh for a loan of £100 for a sure bet.

"He was drinking tea and saying he was going to sue the cigarette companies. We laughed about it.

"I told him it's the old story, if I gave a customer a loan, they're gone, and I couldn't do it. I really felt bad about it.





Stabbed

"The following day he came in and took out about £6,000 and just winked at me. We never fell out," Hugh joked.

"Alex lived from day to day. He lived life to the full."

The publican also recalled he was in the pub one day in the late 1990s reading claims that a girlfriend had stabbed Alex during a row.

The snooker champion walked into The Boar's Head, spotted Hugh reading the newspaper story, and quipped: "It wouldn't be the first time someone stabbed me in the back."

mlavery@herald.ie


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